Responsible reporting of rape and sexual assault

*Trigger warning*

No More Page 3 HQ is united in anger & sadness today along with organisations supporting survivors, those working for an end to violence against women and others fighting for responsible coverage of these crimes.

This is the front page of today’s Sun newspaper – Bastards

This front page precedes the usual Page 3 feature with topless 21 year old Sabine and over the page  on Page 4 a big headline ‘Slave gang forced me to have sex with 5 men at a time.’

Where newspapers and other publications cover awful crimes such as rape, trafficking and child sex abuse it is vital that language and tone is carefully chosen. That the public are made aware of these things is obviously important but it is crucial to consider carefully the language used and the placement of the story so that the seriousness is not lost and that survivors of this and similar crimes are aware that they are being regarded with total respect. It is NEVER appropriate to use the crime of rape to titillate readers or to trivialise it by placing it next to pictures meant to arouse. Not only is this very likely to traumatise any rape survivor and belittle their experience it also potentially feeds into a culture that considers rape as less than a violent crime and therefore supports rapists by reinforcing and reaffirming that their act was perhaps not “rape” at all.

Rape is rape, it is not sex!

We are appalled by the coverage of this story in the Sun today both on the front page and inside and feel this should be addressed by regulators of the media immediately.

We asked the End Violence Against Women coalition for their opinion on this and here is what they said -

“This kind of sensationalised reporting causes real harm by minimising and eroticising sexual violence against women. The fact is that stories of abuse which are placed next to soft porn on the next page are designed to titillate. It is deeply discriminatory and underlines the need for Page 3 to go and for more responsible reporting of abuse. Furthermore, it is essential for women’s groups and other third parties to be able to complain to the new press regulator about discriminatory reporting.”

And Ending Victimisation and Blame sent us this statement:

“Use of the term ‘sex slave’ is dehumanising to women & incredibly damaging to women who have experienced sexual violence. Conflating rape with sex, as in this case, shows a clear misunderstanding of sexual violence and shows the depths The Sun newspaper will go to, in order to sensationalise sexual violence.

There are clear guidelines on reporting sexual violence, supported by the National Union of Journalists, and we believe The Sun editor, and his reporting team, should refer to these report guidelines in order to ensure they are reporting responsibly.”